I don’t know if you have been following the recent scandal with regard to the deaths on the maternity ward at Cumbria’s Furness General Hospital. Clearly, most of the coverage has focused on the cover-up – but to me there is a much more fundamental issue at stake. It comes down to this – when will the medical profession, and in particular the NHS, start to face reality when it comes to medical negligence?
Bear in mind, until yesterday, the view of the Care Quality Commission was that the names of those individuals who had clearly been responsible for a serious cover-up, were being withheld. Can you imagine the situation if, rather than the saintly NHS, this had involved either private hospital staff or worse still lawyers – or even bankers? There wouldn’t have been the slightest question that those responsible for this kind of appalling cover-up would have been immediately identified and hung up to dry. Yet the NHS and the medical profession seemed to think that they are immune to this kind of accountability.
Our medical negligence team see this attitude all the time – the NHS regularly gripe about the size of the legal bill they have two cover in dealing with medical negligence claims, and have tried to push the government towards a significant limitation on the right of victims of medical negligence to proper compensation through the courts. In our experience, the main reason for the size of the legal bill to the NHS in relation to medical negligence claims, is simply the fact that the NHS refuse to accept responsibility for medical negligence. Even when the evidence is staring them in the face. It is as if, somehow, being an NHS doctor, means you can never be negligent and you never have to own up to your own mistakes. It is simply arrogance on an astounding scale. The tragedy is that many members of the public, and most of the press until recently, have gone along with it. They blame compensation claim solicitors for the so-called “compensation culture” – but in reality, the only people who been holding these negligent doctors accountable are those medical negligence solicitors and the courts.
We have seen plenty of examples of this kind of arrogance and downright negligence recently – this is, perhaps, one of the most extreme examples. However tragic the death of mothers and babies in the unit at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust , let’s hope they didn’t die in vain. Let’s hope that the NHS takes heed finally of the need for openness, and yes, honesty, and there is a real change of culture within the organisation – and in doing so we will start to expose negligence and bad practice across the NHS – and in doing so, save the misery suffered by tens of thousands of those suffering from medical negligence and the fatalities that sadly often follow.
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